Title: Indefinite and bare nominal gerunds from Middle to Present-day English – exploiting the nominal paradigm?
Authors: Maekelberghe, Charlotte ×
Fonteyn, Lauren
Heyvaert, Liesbet #
Issue Date: Aug-2014
Conference: ISLE Zurich date:24-27 August 2014
Abstract: Indefinite and bare nominal gerunds from Middle to Present-day English – exploiting the nominal paradigm?

This paper presents a comparative analysis of indefinite and bare nominal gerunds (as in (1) and (2) resp.) from Middle to Present-day English:
(1) She felt a tightening of the fingers that clasped hers. (1890, CLMET3.0)
(2) On the New York there was shouting of orders, sailors running to and fro (…). (1912, CLMET3.0)
Indefinite (iNG) and bare NGs (bNG) have been largely neglected in the literature, yet their occurrence is interesting:
(i) NGs are generally regarded as mass nouns (Brinton 1998; Langacker 1991), which do not normally take indefinite articles and opt for a zero determiner to express indefinite reference (Langacker 2004);
(ii) When they are mentioned in the literature, iNGs have tended to be associated with fully lexicalized (typically count) nouns (e.g. a building/painting; Jespersen 1914-1929-4; Wik 1973), while bNGs are claimed to have been largely replaced by verbal gerunds (as in He regretted shouting orders) (e.g. Fanego 2004; De Smet 2008).
Our analysis of iNGs and bNGs in Middle, Modern and PDEnglish is based on data from the Helsinki Corpus, CLMET3.0, BNC and COCA. We map out their referential status, distinguishing between referential and non-referential (3) uses, and, within referentials, between specific ((1) and (2)), opaque or ‘virtual’ (Lyons 1999; Langacker 2004) (4), and generic (5) instances:
(3) Prayer is (…) a sharing of experiences and practices. (BNC)
(4) [This] may result in a raising of the self esteem of teachers. (COCA)
(5) For worchipyng of +te crosse he seide +tat body +tat hing on +te crosse schuld be worchipid, and no+ting but he. (a1464, HC)

Results reveal that while iNGs were rare in Middle English, they increase significantly in frequency in Late Modern English; bNGs, on the other hand, show a sharp drop in frequency from the Modern English period onwards. At the same time, a division of labour appears to develop between them: iNGs are typically specific, whereas bNGs specialize in generic reference. Both iNGs and bNGs, however, are found with some frequency in opaque contexts. It is argued
(i) that the rise of iNGs fits in with a diachronic ‘nominalization’ of the NG which allowed it to adopt an increasing range of nominal options in addition to the definite article (cf. Hopper and Thompson’s (1985) ‘Iconicity of lexical categories’ principle; Fonteyn, De Smet & Heyvaert 2013);
(ii) that the analysis of iNGs and bNGs shows that NGs, rather than involving a clear-cut distinction between mass noun-like, non-lexicalized vs. fully lexicalized count nouns in -ing, form a cline in which bNGs seem to represent the mass noun end (the zero determiner lacking ‘delimitation’, Langacker 2004: 104) and iNGs resemble count nouns;
(iii) we argue that the occurrence of iNGs is motivated by the (explicit or implicit) delimitation of the (temporal) instance that is referred to (as discussed for regular mass NPs in e.g. Allen 1966; Langacker 1991; Swan 2005) and we map out the various types of delimitation found with iNGs.

Allen, Robert L. (1966). The verb system of Present-day American English. The Hague: Mouton — De Smet, Hendrik. 2008. Functional motivations in the development of nominal and verbal gerunds in Middle and Early Modern English. English Language and Linguistics 12. 55-102 — Brinton, Laurel (1998). Aspectuality and countability: a cross-categorial analogy. English Language and Linguistics 2(1): 37-63 — Fanego, Teresa. 2004. On reanalysis and actualization in syntactic change: the rise and development of English verbal gerunds. Diachronica 21(1). 5–55 — Fonteyn, Lauren, Hendrik De Smet & Liesbet Heyvaert (2013). Gerunds in Late Middle and Late Modern English. A case of shifting discourse-functional paradigms? Paper presented at the SLE conference in Split, September 2013 — Hopper, Paul J. & Sandra A. Thompson 1985. The iconicity of the universal categories ‘noun’ and ‘verb’. In Iconicity in Syntax, J. Haiman (ed.), 151-186. Amsterdam: Benjamins — Jespersen, Otto (1914-1927). A Modern English Grammar, vol VII. Oxford: Allen & Unwin — Langacker, Ronald (1991). Foundations of Cognitive Grammar 2: Descriptive Application. Stanford: Stanford UP — Langacker, Ronald (2004). Remarks on nominal grounding. Functions of Language 11(1): 77-113 — Lyons, Christopher (1999). Definiteness. Cambridge: CUP — Swan, Michael (2005). Practical English Usage. Oxford: OUP — Wik, Berit (1973). English Nominalizations in -ing: Synchronic and Diachronic Aspects. Uppsala : Almqvist och Wiksell.

Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Functional and Cognitive Linguistics: Grammar and Typology (FunC), Campus Kulak Kortrijk
Linguistics Research Unit - miscellaneous
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

Files in This Item:

There are no files associated with this item.


All items in Lirias are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved.